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Archive for March, 2007

Good evening, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. Tonight’s episode will feature a discussion on Magna Carta, the “Great Charter” that is known round the world as one of the greatest pieces of legislation in history. It is known today as one of the biggest influences on the creation of worldwide constitutional law and is the best known document restricting the rights of a monarch under legal binding. We’ll see what brought it about, who was involved, and whether or not it really had much of an effect on England.
Our timeframe for Magna Carta is the 13th century. During this time period, English monarchs were at one of their high points of power – a scary thought indeed when a man such as King John was crowned in 1199. John was king of all England and held vast tracts of land in Norman territory. His holding of supreme and unyielding authority led to the event causing him to become the English king popularly known for centuries after as the ruler whose power was cut out from under him by the nobles of his land.
One catalyst that brought about the need for this “Great Charter” was John’s control over the Church in England. Traditionally, the king appointed a candidate to be Archbishop of Canterbury, and the monks of Canterbury would approve said candidate. However, by the early 1200s, those same monks began to feel that they had no control over the process, and thus they elected their own candidate. John, enraged to find tradition thrown away and that he had been left out of the question altogether, appointed the Bishop of Norwich to the Canterbury seat. Norwich was sent to Rome for papal approval, but the reigning pope, Innocent III, rejected him, along with the man originally chosen by the Canterbury monks. Innocent instead used his influence to make the monks pick a man named Stephen Langton for the holy job. John, in a display of his power as king, exiled the Canterbury monks from his kingdom for not accepting his candidate and electing the man Innocent had proposed. In another move of retaliation, Pope Innocent III exercised the power of the Church by placing all of England under papal interdict – the prohibition of public worship – in 1208. Masses were not said; Holy Eucharist was not received; church bells fell silent, and the fates of souls across the island were unknown. In effect, Innocent did what he could to pull the Church’s blessing from England. The following year, Innocent excommunicated John, which more or less took him out of the running for acceptance into heaven (according to the Church’s laws barring excommunicants from receiving the Sacraments.). This was less a matter of spirituality than a declaration of England as an enemy of the Church – and in these times, being an enemy of the Roman Church, especially in Europe, was a very bad thing. Pope Innocent even gave Philip of France support to invade England in 1212.
Faced with these enormous punishments, John acquiesced to Innocent’s pressure and gave Stephen Langton the archbishopric of Canterbury. He also allowed the exiled monks to return. He even went so far as to give England and Ireland to the pope as papal territories and renting them for 1,000 marks per year. Here we see the dispute turn from a disagreement between king and Church to a feud between king and nobles – the English baronage was understandably infuriated at John’s actions. The lands they owned had become papal property and thus their power was greatly weakened. It is not hard to see the difficulties that were bound to arise from nobility being pitted against monarch.
Although John had more or less turned his realm over to Rome, the country could still operate without his leadership – the civil service put into place by Henry II took care of that. However, it costs money to run a kingdom. John had lost most of his Norman holdings in his messy ascent to the throne, and the loss of all that land led to a huge loss in tax revenue. John’s lost lands could not be reclaimed without raising an enormous amount of taxes, and tradition made it very difficult to increase the tax rate. John therefore introduced several radical (and ridiculous) laws that would raise the state’s income, including laws regarding the king’s forest that carried severe punishments for menial crimes. At that time in history, the feudal system included scutage – payment made to an overlord in lieu of military service. In the 2 score years or so before John’s coronation, the scutage had been raised eleven times. In John’s seventeen years as king, he raised it the same number of times himself. Furthermore, King John also brought about the first income tax to support the revenue lost to his military failures in Normandy.
By 1215, England’s nobility had had enough of this business. On June 10 of that year, many of the country’s barons stormed London, taking it by force. Five days later, they forced John to sign what they called the “Articles of the Barons” on the meadow at Runnymede. As an outward display of their so-called loyalty to John, those same barons reaffirmed their fealty to him on June 19. About a month later, on July 15, 1215, the royal chancery formally recorded the agreement, and Magna Carta was born. The most important part of Magna Carta, or at least the most important part as far as what it is known for, was clause 61, which formed a committee of 25 barons who had the power to overrule the decisions of the king. John was forced to swear obedience to this committee, should they decide to exercise their power and veto the actions of the king.
Interestingly enough, the Pope spoke out against Magna Carta. He issued an annulment against it, saying it was a “shameful and demeaning agreement, forced upon the king by violence and fear.” He gave his official blessing for John to openly disobey the new legislation. It is quite obvious that Innocent’s motives had little to do with John’s dignity; rather, the Pope was angered that the nobility would claim authority over the lands John had handed over to him.
Soon after signing the Great Charter, King John of England renounced its authority. This lead to the civil war now known as the First Baron’s War. The war carried on for over a year; it ended with John’s death on October 18, 1216. Upon his child son Henry’s accession to the throne, the war was ended, and King Henry III was the new lord in the country.
In a cunning move, Henry’s regents reissued Magna Carta a little less than a month after his coronation – albeit without its restrictive Clause 61, among other Clauses. Henry himself issued the Charter again in 1225, shortening it even further; his son, Edward I, reissued it one final time in 1297, confirming the version that Henry III had set down as authoritative. Thus, the Magna Carta that survives today does not have what the original document contained; rather, it is Edward’s 1297 edition that we call Magna Carta now.
The laws set down in Magna Carta were slowly but surely repealed in the centuries following that day at Runnymede, and very few of the statutes put forth by the document remain today. However, its influence can be seen in any modern legislation that upholds the rights of people against rulers – a fine example of this is the U.S. Constitution. It was an invaluable piece in the puzzle that gradually came together to form modern democracy, and without it the process would sure have taken decades, if not centuries, longer, and we may not be at the point of freedom we find ourselves at today.
And so there we have it. The actions of a power hungry and hot-tempered ruler brought into reign the laws set forth to prohibit a monarch from running amok with authority. Although John flagrantly disregarded Magna Carta, it was nevertheless a valuable link in the chain that connects the politics of the past with the system of today. We have Magna Carta to thank for setting into motion the many freedoms and liberties we experience every day.
I’d like to ask for a bit of feedback regarding this week’s episode. I have tried a few things to correct the volume problem, but I haven’t heard from anyone on whether or not they actually worked! If you have a few spare moments, drop me a line and let me know how British History 101 makes it into your ears. Another huge thank you to Dan in New Zealand for all his efforts!
Listeners of British History 101 know how much of a proponent I am for the podcasting community. Last week, we heard from Phillip Zannini on his new ‘cast, the Biography Podcast. It’s fresh, fun, and full of interesting information that makes me glad Philip started it. However, I’d like to remind everyone this week once again of the great podcast that started it all for me, Matt’s Today in History.
Thanks, Matt. If anyone listening now is like me, I know they look forward to seeing a new episode on their podcast list every day.
That’s it for this episode of British History 101. If you’d like to look back over our discussion of Magna Carta, I hope you can check out my blog at britishhistory101.com for a transcript of this and every other episode. I’ve run into some trouble with the blog; for some reason, new posts aren’t appearing. I’m in contact with Blogger as we speak to try and rectify this issue. Please bear with me! Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. Our music tonight is “O Maria, Prius Via,” performed by Joglaresa and available on Magnatune.com. Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit magnatune.com for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. Thanks again to all of British History 101’s listeners. Until next week, my best to you all, and have a great night. I can’t wait to learn with you again.

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Good evening, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. After last week’s lack of an installment, I hope the most recent edition of this podcast entertains and educates as much as possible.
Tonight’s episode comes from a suggestion by Gary from Houston, Texas. Gary wrote in and said, “I was wondering if you could do a piece on Hadrian’s Wall – how was it built, what was its purpose, and was it successful?” Thanks for the suggestion, Gary, and we’ll get right to it.
Hadrian’s Wall was constructed by, obviously, Hadrian, Roman emperor from AD 76 to 138. He built it to halt the invading tribes of modern-day Scotland to the north and provide a definite boundary to the British region of the Roman Empire; it also served to prevent dangerous groups of tribes in the area from uniting under one banner by splitting them apart with a physical boundary. During the Roman Empire, Hadrian’s Wall was the most heavily fortified and protected border in all Europe. It may also have served as a way to tax traveling merchants; this is suggested by the several gates found along the wall’s length.
The Wall, which extended from the Solway Firth on the coast of the Irish Sea in eastern modern-day England to Wallsend on the River Tyne across the island to the west, was begun in 122 AD and was more or less complete in ten years’ time. It roughly followed the line of the Stanegate Road running from Corbridge to Carlisle, which previously acted as the border of Roman territory – obviously, a stone wall provides much more protection than a simple road. The Wall crossed the river Irthing; east of the river, the Wall was made of stone and was 3 meters wide by 5 meters tall; west of the river, the Wall was originally a turf barrier 6 meters wide by 3 meters tall. The Wall’s design plans called for a 3 meter wide wall with a ditch and 80 small forts every Roman mile (the Wall was 80 Roman miles or 120 kilometers long) and a system of turrets for signaling and observation along the way. Along the area of the wall made of stone, local limestone was the rock of choice, and the turrets located along the length of the wall made of turf were also constructed strictly of stone. These turrets were all approximately 500 meters apart and only about 5 meters square inside.
Construction took place in 5 mile stretches. One group would lay the foundation all along the way, also building the small forts and turrets as they went, and a following group would build upon the foundation and make up the wall in the preceding group’s tracks. Soon after the Wall was finished, 14-17 full-sized forts were placed under construction along the length of the boundary, each having a garrison between 500 and 1000 troops. The Wall west of the river Irthing was also revamped, being rebuilt in sandstone.
Once the forts were in place, another barrier was built behind the wall itself. This was known as the Vallum, and consisted of a ditch 6 meters wide and 3 meters deep, with 10-meter-wide berms on either side. Causeways provided transportation across the Vallum. In front of the wall, that is, on the northern side, was another berm with pits containing obstacles and another ditch north of that berm. Obviously, this was a formidable barrier in itself to anyone wishing to lead an incursion south into the Romans’ territory – the physical construct was also defended by approximately 10,000 soldiers, including cavalry units 1,000 strong on either end of the wall and all the garrisons between the endpoints.
Hadrian’s Wall functioned as an effective barrier until his death in AD 138. When the new emperor, Antoninus Pius, came to power, he more or less abandoned Hadrian’s Wall and began constructing one of his own 160 kilometers north of the old Roman barrier in 142. This was, oddly enough, known as the Antonine Wall. This Wall was approximately 40 miles long, stretching from Old Kilpatrick to Bo’ness, Falkirk within the borders of modern-day Scotland. Antoninus’ Wall was an impressive construct, taking only 2 years to complete and having forts every two miles. The Wall itself was a turf barrier 4 meters tall with a wide ditch on the north side of it – a somewhat simplified version of Hadrian’s Wall to the south. This Wall formed the northern barrier of the Roman Empire for about 20 years before it was actually abandoned in favor of Hadrian’s Wall, which the occupying Roman legions fell back upon. This was mostly due to the fact that Antoninus was unable to conquer the troublesome tribes of northern Britain. Marcus Aurelius, his successor, made the decision to reinstate Hadrian’s Wall as the main defensive line and border of the Empire in Britain.
The Roman Empire began to lose its grip on the province of Britannia within a few centuries, and in the early 5th century our favorite island territory was devoid of its former Roman occupiers. Local Britons manned the wall for several decades into the 5th century, but soon it began to fall into disuse and the stone forming one of the greatest defensive barriers in human history was used to construct other buildings across the land.
So, Gary, we have seen how the wall was built, discussed its purpose, and now we should decide whether or not it was successful. With the objective of keeping out marauding northern tribes in mind, we see that it was indeed successful – so much so that, even after another emperor constructed another wall north of it, it was later brought back to glory due to its effectiveness. It defined the northern border of the Roman Empire in Britain for centuries, and can still be seen today. The one time that I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Hadrian’s Wall, I was extremely impressed – even now, it is astounding what Roman engineers accomplished with no more sophisticated tools than they had.
With that, let’s take a look at some miscellaneous business I think everyone should be aware of. I was alerted to a new podcast, entitled Biography Podcast. I think you can tell what it’s about, but I’ll let Phillip explain a little more.
Thanks, Phillip, for all your hard work, and we’ll all look forward to new episodes of your ‘cast.
British History 101 is listed at podcastalley.com, and I’d really appreciate it if you’d stop by and cast a vote for me if you have a few spare moments during your day. Thanks a lot!
Also – I’m not sure how this episode will sound to those of you who have experienced difficulty in the past. I’m still working with Dan on a solution and am trying as hard as I can to get it worked out. Once again, thank you Dan, and if anyone else has any suggestions, please let me know at your earliest convenience. I appreciate the help so much!
That’s it for this episode of British History 101. If you’d like to look back over our discussion of Hadrian’s Wall, check out my blog at britishhistory101.com for a transcript of this and every other episode. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. Our music tonight is “Benedicamus Domino,” performed by Joglaresa and available on Magnatune.com. Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit magnatune.com for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. Thanks again to all of British History 101’s listeners, Phillip for bringing us Biography Podcast, and all those men and women who acted in the events that gave rise to the history of Britain and thus this podcast. Until next week, my best to you all, and have a great day. I can’t wait to learn with you again.

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Good evening, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. Tonight’s discussion will be followed by a bit of housekeeping, so please do stay tuned after the history and give me some feedback if it’s not too much trouble.
In this episode of British History 101, we’ll take a look at the Battle of Dunkirk. Stephen of Belhaven College wrote in last week and asked to hear a bit about this battle, one of World War II’s most famous, and so our topic tonight comes from his suggestion.
The Battle of France began on May 10, 1940 with German Army Groups A and B rolling over the Franco-German border, Group A through the Ardennes area and then turning north, Group B advancing through the Netherlands and heading west through Belgium. Try as they might, Allied forces in the area were unable to stop the German advance over the next several weeks, and the Wehrmacht cut off the British Expeditionary Force, the French 1st and 7th Armies, and the Belgians from the rest of France’s military south of the German incursion. On May 24, Panzer divisions under the control of commander in chief Walther von Brauchitsch were halted outside the Allied city of Dunkirk per orders of the Fuhrer. Adolf Hitler believed that, were the divisions to extend all the way through to Dunkirk, they would be stretched too thinly. This order ran directly contrary to what von Brauchitsch desired. It did, however, allow the Germans to regroup, fortify the areas they had already overrun, and build up strength for the eventual assault on the rest of France.
The day after Hitler stopped his tanks outside Dunkirk, General Lord Gort, the commander of the British Expeditionary Force, ordered the evacuation of all British forces in the area. Over the next 4 days, British forces pulled back closer and closer to the Atlantic coast, creating what is now known as the Dunkirk Pocket along the Franco-Belgian border.
On May 27, Operation Dynamo initiated the actual evacuation of the cornered Allied troops. The next day, May 28, Belgium surrendered to Germany, along with parts of the French 1st Army trapped outside the Dunkirk Pocket. By June 4, 1940, Operation Dynamo was complete, and although the battle was tactically a German victory, the successful evacuation of the thousands of trapped troops was an incredible morale booster to Great Britain – we must remember that by this time, Poland and parts of Europe were already under German control, and the outlook was not good. Saving the lives of the men of the British Expeditionary Force became one of the biggest pieces of propaganda in military history, and the phrase “Dunkirk Spirit” even came to be known to describe solidarity in times of distress.
What was a type of success for the British led to the fall of the French under the Nazi jackboot, as the Germans entered Paris 10 days after Operation Dynamo was complete on June 14, and the French offered surrender to the invaders from the east 8 days later.
That’s it for the history this week. I’d really like to use this episode to, as I said earlier, do a bit of housecleaning, and take care of some business I’ve had on my mind this week regarding British History 101. First of all – a big thank you is due to one listener Michael, who mailed in with a correction to my pronunciation. Previously, I referred to people native to Britain as BRIGHTons. Thanks, Michael, for alerting me the word is said as BRITTens. I ask anyone and everyone to let me know if I do say something incorrectly – I don’t want British History 101 to present anything in any fashion other than correct!
Next, I’m concerned I’m having some audio problems with the podcast. Several listeners have let me know they’re having trouble with the volume level of my recording. When I play the ‘cast back in iTunes on my computer, I have no trouble whatsoever, and most people say it’s perfectly fine on their systems. If you are indeed having difficulty with the volume level and have any idea as to what could be causing it, I’d love to get some feedback as to what the problem could be – I want British History 101 to be 100% accessible to every person that downloads it. Each and every listener I’ve been in contact with has been so incredibly supportive and I really do appreciate that. Much thanks to EVERYONE who listens.
Anyone who listens to this podcast would greatly benefit by listening to Matt Dattilo’s podcast Matt’s Today in History. It’s a fascinating look at the events that have shaped our world and I strongly recommend it to each and every listener of British History 101. More from Matt:
Thanks for that, Matt, I know there are a large number of people out there that love your podcast just as much as me. Keep up the great work.
That concludes tonight’s episode. If you’d like to look back over our discussion of Dunkirk, visit britishhistory101.com for a transcript of this and every other episode. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. Our music tonight is “Gather Your Rosebuds,” performed by Jeni Malia and available on Magnatune.com. Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit magnatune.com for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. Until we talk again, many thanks for listening, and have a great evening.

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Good evening, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. I’d like to start tonight with a clarification on last week’s episode covering the Battle of Trafalgar. Once I listened to the podcast after it was released, I realized I never even mentioned why it’s called the Battle of Trafalgar. It was so named because it was fought off the coast of Spain, near the Cape of Trafalgar. Sorry to leave that little bit out – this week’s episode won’t feature any slips like that.
Tonight we’ll be learning about Boudicca, also know as Boadicea, the warrior queen of native Britons during the time of the Romans. When the Roman Empire extended its reach over British lands, the rulers of the native peoples were forced to pay local Roman officials if they wanted protection from attackers. The king who gave rise to Boudicca’s reign was Prasutagus, her husband. Prasutagus ruled the Iceni people, native Britons who inhabited the area around modern-day Norfolk. When Prasutagus died in 60 A.D., he did the customary duty of kings and gave half his wealth and territories to Nero, the Roman emperor at the time. The other half, along with his power as ruler of the Iceni, went to his widow, Boudicca, who would keep it under her care until Prasutagus’ daughters came of age. This was completely normal at the time – the Iceni people accepted feminine authority, and to them Boudicca’s gender presented no problems. However, the Romans thought otherwise. Being the “real” authority in the land, they treated Boudicca with contempt and outright hostility. She was publicly beaten by her Roman overlords and her daughters were raped. The lands of the Iceni nobles were confiscated, and the Roman historian Tacitus tells us, “Kingdom and household alike were plundered like prizes of war.” War itself didn’t come until the following year, when Boudicca led her people in revolt against what the Romans were doing.
Dio Cassius, another Roman historian who has left us with details on the life of Boudicca, describes the queen by saying, “In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying. Her glance was fierce, her voice harsh, a great mass of the most tawny hair cascaded to her hips.” From this, we can see that Boudicca was quite an imposing figure – and for good reason. She went on to lead one of the most violent periods in British history, and it started with the destruction of the town we now call Colchester.
Colchester was the first target of Boudicca’s wrath. She and the band of her followers destroyed the town, causing so much destruction that in 1907 a young boy swimming in the River Alde, Suffolk, the county north of Colchester’s Essex, found a bronze head of the Emperor Claudius. After the destruction of Britain’s oldest city, Boudicca led her army towards Londinium, the relatively new Roman town that later developed into the global hub we know as London nowadays. Londinium received no better treatment than Colchester – it was burned to the ground, and excavators along the River Thames in London have discovered a layer of red clay under centuries of the construction that built London that they have called Boudicca’s layer.
During all this, most of the Roman army was occupied in the northwest, hunting down the Druids they found to be so troublesome. Boudicca decided the Roman military was her next objective, and so she headed off to confront the army and get vengeance for the injustices committed against her and her people. However, Boudicca and her army weren’t alone on their trip – as Boudicca had picked up troops to rally behind her cause all along the way, many soldiers brought their entire families with them. This caused the rebel army to have an enormous train of civilians following behind them. In essence, all those opposed to Roman cruelty were massed together behind their tawny-haired leader, marching across the British countryside to battle the foreign rulers.
After stopping briefly in Verulanium, modern-day St. Albans, to demolish the city, Boudicca most likely encountered the Roman army under the command of Governor Suetonius in the Midlands, north of Coventry near Mancetter. Confronted with the vastly better trained yet smaller in number Roman army, Tacitus tells us that Boudicca paraded before her soldiers in her chariot, rallying them by saying, “I am fighting for my lost freedom, my bruised body, and my outraged daughters. Consider how many of you are fighting and why – then you will win this battle, or perish! That is what I, a woman, plan to do! Let the men live in slavery if the want to!” If ever their was an ancient inspiration of girl power, it was Boudicca.
Although Boudicca and her rebels overwhelmingly held the numerical advantage, the professional Roman army slowly wore down the native army. The train of families following Boudicca had fanned out around the battle site to watch the carnage, and this proved to be the end of the warrior queen. When the rebels were driven back by the Romans, the families’ positions accidentally acted to hem in the army – they were being pushed back by the Romans and had nowhere to go. The rebels were utterly slaughtered, losing 80,000 soldiers to the Roman casualty count of 400. Boudicca and her daughters all took poison, choosing to end their own lives rather than fall into Roman hands again. So ended Boudicca’s Revolt.
In 1902, a statue was raised near Parliament, showing Boudicca in all her battle-earned glory. According to legend, Boudicca fell in battle directly under platform 10 at King’s Cross metro station – of course, this is purely fictional, as most historians agree the warrior died in the Midlands at what has become known as the Battle of Watling Street.
Boudicca’s Revolt ultimately failed. However, the memory of those violent times is part of the soul of Britain today – that indomitable spirit that refuses to live under oppression and tyranny, epitomized by the valiant people that lead Britain to becoming what she is today.
That’s it for this episode of British History 101. If you’d like to look back over Boudicca’s Revolt, check out my blog at britishhistory101.com for a transcript of this and every other episode. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. Our music tonight is “O Madalena Che Portasti” performed by Joglaresa and available on Magnatune.com. Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit magnatune.com for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. My best to you all, and as always thank you so very much for listening to and supporting British History 101. Have a great night, and we’ll learn together next week.

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Good evening, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. For those of you who have read the British History 101 blog since yesterday morning, you know I’ve been extremely busy this week and just had no time whatsoever to record the podcast – I’m terribly sorry to come out with this installment a day later than I usually release them, but we all know what it’s like to have to prioritize and sometimes hobbies have to fall by the wayside. Anyways, here we are now, and the history can continue. This episode comes from a suggestion by listener David S. from Tiburon, California. David wrote in and said “A highlight on naval history, especially during the Napoleonic era, would be appreciated.” In reviewing what I could do with this, I decided the Battle of Trafalgar was the best way to go, and so today’s topic is the most famous British naval battle in which Admiral Lord Nelson defeated a combined French and Spanish force off the coast of Spain in 1805.
In 1805, the First French Empire, under Napoleon Bonaparte, was the dominant land force in continental Europe, while the British had overwhelming control over the seas. The Royal Navy maintained a blockade of France, making it quite difficult for Napoleon to accomplish anything requiring naval maneuvers. When the Third Coalition, consisting of the United Kingdom, Austria, Russia, Naples, and Sweden, declared war on France, Napoleon decided he needed to invade Great Britain, á la Hastings 1066. However, to accomplish this, it was vital for Napoleon to control the English Channel, which he obviously couldn’t do with the British blockade of France.
France’s main naval fleets were based at Brest and Toulon, which was in the Mediterranean. Also, thanks to its alliance with Spain, France also had fleets available at Cádiz and El Ferrol on the Spanish coast. Vice Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve commanded the French navy, from his base at Toulon. Villeneuve found himself in command of the French navy because most of France’s best naval officers were either executed or otherwise gotten rid of during the French Revolution – the position more or less fell into his lap, and he was no match for the well-trained, top-notch officers and sailors of the Royal Navy.
Napoleon’s plan to invade Britain was quite competent – on paper, at least. The French and Spanish fleets were to break the blockade, meet up in the West Indies, and returned as a combined force to Brest and free the rest of the French navy there. From that point, the Franco-Spanish alliance could clear the Channel of British ships, paving the way for Napoleon’s invasion force. In theory, this was a good plan – however, Napoleon’s lack of understanding of naval tactics and strategy meant it was destined for failure.
In early 1805, Admiral Lord Nelson was in command of the blockade at Toulon, while William Cornwallis kept watch over the French at Brest, the other of the two most important French naval bases. While Cornwallis maintained a stranglehold on his port, Nelson adopted a loose blockade strategy, hoping to lure the French out and destroy them once they were out of port. However, storms blew Nelson’s fleet off station, allowing Villeneuve and the French Toulon fleet to slip past him, through the Straits of Gibraltar, and across the ocean to the West Indies. Once the French and Spanish had regrouped across the Atlantic Ocean, they headed back toward Europe, intent on freeing the fleet at Brest per Napoleon’s plan. However, Villeneuve lost 2 of his Spanish ships at the Battle of Cape Finisterre, and this loss made him decide to set course for El Ferrol.
Villeneuve’s orders were to sail from El Ferrol with his 32 ships and join Vice Admiral Ganteume’s 21 ships at Brest, along with 5 ships under the command of Captain Allemand, giving him a total of 53 ships. This would then create the largest possible number of ships at Boulogne, France, where Napoleon’s invading force was gathering. He indeed headed for Brest, but he then became worried that the British were watching him and knew what he was up to, and so the next day he changed course and moved toward Cádiz. By the 26th of August, the French army at Boulogne saw no sign of the fleet, and thus broke camp and went off to fight in Germany.
Admiral Lord Nelson went home to England in August for some time off and much-needed relaxation. However, his time was shorter lived than he had hoped, for word soon reached England of the French fleet at Cádiz – the British had figured out what was going on, and Nelson was dispatched to the area to handle the situation. On 29 September Nelson was sent to take command of the fleet that had been sent to stop the combined French and Spanish forces.
Nelson quickly formulated a plan to attack the enemy. He instructed the captains of his fleet that the attack was to take the form of two bodies of ships, one under the command of Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, the officer directly under Nelson, which would attack the rear of the enemy line, while Nelson himself would lead the group attacking the rest of the French-Spanish fleet. Among others, this plan gave the advantage to the British in that it would break the enemy line of ships, bringing the battle into a series of individual ship-to-ship skirmishes, which the British would likely win. It also meant that, with the attack on the rear of the French and Spanish fleet, the lead ships would have to turn around to defend them – a maneuver that would simply take a long time, making them vulnerable to British fire. The biggest problem this plan faced was due to the configuration of the opposing fleets – the French and Spanish were arrayed in a shallow crescent, two or three ships abreast and traveling in a line, while the British would attack on a line perpendicular to this formation – essentially, the French and Spanish would have many ships lined up to fire on the column of approaching British ships, exposing the leading ships under Nelson and Collingwood to a broadside they would be unable to respond to – a ship at that time could not fire directly forward (at least not with any gun with considerable power).
This idea of Nelson’s was quite radical – not many sea captains thought to engage in naval combat in any way besides lining up two fleets in parallel formations and exchanging broadsides. Radical though it was, Nelson put it into action, and at 11:35 A.M. on 21 October 1805, he sent the flag signal, “England expects that every man will do his duty,” across the fleet, and British plowed on toward the French. Nelson led one column on his Victory, while Collingwood led his line from Royal Sovereign.
Nelson’s plan indeed succeeded – the French and Spanish fleet was badly fragmented, allowing the British ships to destroy the poorly-crewed enemy formation. However, at one point, Nelson’s Victory locked masts with the French Redoutable, and the French prepared to board and capture Nelson’s ship. Nelson himself was shot in the ensuing battle, a shot hitting him in left shoulder, passing through his body, and becoming lodged in his spine. He was carried belowdecks and lay dying as the battle raged on around him. Eventually, 22 ships of the Franco-Spanish fleet were destroyed, while the British lost none. Admiral Lord Nelson died at about 4:30 in the afternoon, 21 October 1805.
The war that the Third Coalition had declared on France ended less than two months later with the Battle of Austerlitz, where Napoleon defeated Russian and Austrian forces. However, the French leader never gained control of the United Kingdom – the power of the Royal Navy was simply too much for him to overcome. Even without Britain under his belt, Napoleon was undoubtedly one of the most powerful men in military history – on most days. 21 October 1805 was not one of those days.
Admiral Lord Nelson became Britain’s greatest naval hero, and Trafalgar Square in London is commemorated to his victory that day of the Spanish coast, and Nelson keeps watch over the Square to this day from his spot atop the column named after him.
The conclusion we reach here, a summary if you will, of the idea sent in by David, is that British naval power was confirmed by the events of the Napoleonic era. The 18th century was spent building up domination of the sea by Britain, and the perfection of naval practice was exemplified by the Battle of Trafalgar. While Napoleon became Emperor of France and King of Italy, the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom ruled the waves around the globe, and was never seriously challenged by an opposing force until World War I over 100 years later.
For those of you already well-versed in naval history and the Battle of Trafalgar, I’m sure it’s obvious I didn’t go into a terribly great amount of detail with this episode – that is quite intentional, as I like to keep this podcast more or less brief, and an in-depth explanation would have taken quite a while. I know that for me, my attention is kept best by something brief and to the point, and many of those who listen to this podcast are quite busy people – I wouldn’t dare to ask much of your time each week.
Another podcaster who keeps things short and sweet is Matt Dattilo, who I’m sure you’ve heard me mention before on previous episodes. Matt gets an enormous amount of my personal respect for two reasons – 1) Anyone who puts out a history podcast daily, and keeps it interesting and exciting, is worthy of great praise and honor; and 2) He’s my cousin. As brethren of good Italian stock, Matt and I have talked a lot over the past few months about podcasting and he’s taught me everything I know. I’d really love it if you’d try out Matt’s Today in History, the podcast that inspired this one.
I highly recommend Matt’s podcast for all listeners of British History 101 and anyone interested in history at all. Between the two of us, Matt and I can guarantee you’ll always get something fresh and exciting.
That’s it for this episode of British History 101. If you’d like to look back over the Battle of Trafalgar, check out my blog at britishhistory101.com for a transcript of this and every other episode. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. Our music tonight is Handel’s “Trio Sonato 2, Number 3 in B flat Major: Part 2, Allegro" performed by the Brook Street Band and available on Magnatune.com. Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit magnatune.com for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. Until next week, my best to you all, and as always, thank you so much for joining me. Have a great evening.

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Good evening, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. This episode will wrap up our Battle of Hastings series, giving us a brief overview of the aftermath of the Norman Conquest. To begin with, I feel the need to apologize for the comparative brevity of the history in this installment – due to both a lack of time this week and my desire to put in a bit of an editorial, the historical aspect of this episode won’t be quite as long as parts 1 and 2 of the series on Hastings. Nonetheless, I assure you what we do explore today will still be interesting and informative – otherwise, this wouldn’t be British History 101, now would it?
William of Normandy, though victorious in battle, was feeling the effects of war – at least one fourth of his army had been eliminated in the fighting with Harold. In addition to that, a violent epidemic of dysentery swept through the Normans in late October, causing further non-combat casualties. However, the biggest problem that William faced was building a stable power base in England – after all, he was the leader of a minority invading force, and he wasn’t dumb enough to expect all of England to bow down before him. With his battle-hardened demeanor, William decided the best way to gain the loyalty of the English was by show of force – he cut a path of destruction towards London, pillaging towns as he went and making it crystal clear that he was the dominant force on the island. One town that refused to do him homage paid the ultimate price – William simply slaughtered the entire town. When he started getting closer to London, William successfully decided that he couldn’t march directly on the capital – the city was far too strong for him to assault directly. Knowing this, William decided to circle the city and take the surrounding towns – a sort of long-distance siege tactic. This indeed proved to do the trick, and William was soon making his way through the streets of London. Edgar Atheling, whom Edward the Confessor had technically nominated as Heir Apparent in 1057, was proclaimed King after Harold died at Hastings but was never crowned – William came along too soon and too strongly for that. William arrived in London, and Edgar and most of England’s top nobility came to submit to their new overlord. Duke William of Normandy was crowned King William I of England on Christmas Day, 1066, in Westminster Abbey. This actually brought about some of the resentment the native English felt towards the Normans. William had placed guards outside the abbey itself in order to make sure the crowds outside were properly excited and jubilant at the coronation of their new king. However, when those inside the abbey proclaimed “Vivat Rex!” or “Long live the King!” the guards mistook this shouting as an assault on the king, and promptly burned everything in sight in retribution, destroying buildings in a wide circle around the abbey. This, understandably, enraged the English, and so began a series of small riots and revolts against the new Norman king. This, in turn, brought about the Tower of London, which William began constructing to handle rabble rousers.
Although he had a difficult time bringing the country under his total control, William eventually brought Norman influence over the whole of England. The Normans introduced the system of land tenure based on military service, as William was much more concerned with raising a loyal army from his knights and the men they owed him than granting land to the nobles who had participated in the Conquest. Bringing in this entirely new system to the English caused some amount of unrest – here was a foreigner installing a system completely alien to the common man. The newly rich Norman land owners also squabbled amongst themselves as to who should have this piece of land or that particular manor. This confusion gave birth to the 1086 survey we now know as Domesday Book, which listed in excruciating detail the exact holdings of the king and nobles throughout the land.
Domesday Book is excellent evidence as to the nature of the Norman invaders – they were administrators and lawyers, rather than legislators. This job they left to the native Saxon system. The old Saxon financial and secretarial methods were left intact, along with the system of counties, sheriffs, courts, and – of course – taxes and dues. In this way, we see a hybridization of Norman and Saxon government – old meets new, and it worked out rather well for William and his descendants.
And so there we have it. The invaders from across the Channel achieved their goal – total domination of England. William got what he finally thought he deserved, and the Norman influence that Edward had introduced was magnified exponentially. The course of England was forever changed, and the events that happened after that eventful year will be covered in future episodes of this podcast.
Now then – on to the non-historical segment of this episode. With the few episodes of British History 101 that I’ve actually produced, I’ve become very excited about each installment, and it’s something I take great pleasure it working on. The community – both listeners and fellow podcasters – is simply amazing, and this podcast would certainly not still be in production if not for the incredible support offered by other members of the podcast movement. I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Mr. Matt Dattilo of the Matt’s Today in History podcast, whom without I never would have started my own. He’s both an excellent podcaster and a great guy, whether he’s coming through your speakers or talking to you in real life. I heartily encourage you to check out his podcast and show your support there, as well.
In my admittedly limited interaction with other podcasters, I’ve found nothing but friendliness and a sense of camaraderie – everyone who has a hobby in podcasting is glad to share their experience and knowledge with everyone else, and it’s comforting to find that when you start a project that you know nothing about. One such example is Ms. Lara Eakins of Tudor Cast, a fellow British history podcast that has a bit more focused scope than mine. I’d describe it to you myself, but I think Lara could do a much better job of it.
All in all, podcasting has become a true joy in my life, and sharing centuries of history and learning with those who listen is a very human experience.
If you’d like to review the history heard in this episode, please check out my blog at britishhistory101.com for a transcript of this and every other episode. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. Our music tonight is Handel’s “Oxford Water Music Suite in D Major: Part I, Minuet," performed by the Brook Street Band and available on Magnatune.com. Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit magnatune.com for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. Until next week, my best to you all, and as always, thanks for listening. If you like what you heard tonight, please subscribe to British History 101 and catch every episode fresh each week. Also, I’d like to ask you to vote for British History 101 at podcastalley.com, and show your support for the preservation of history, whether it be British or any other nationality. Thank you again for learning with me tonight, and we’ll talk again next week. Have a great evening.

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Good evening, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. This episode brings us to part 2 of our 3 part series on the Battle of Hastings. Last time, we ended with the backgrounds of the 4 people I think of as the most important in this event – Edward the Confessor, Harold Godwinson, Harald Hardrada, and William of Normandy. Now, we’re left with three of them alive; one is in England, one across the Channel in Normandy, and one in Norway. Our Norse contender, Harald Hardrada, was the first to move, invading England with Harold Godwinson’s exiled brother Tostig in late summer 1066.
Hardrada first sailed to the Orkneys and the Isle of Man, gathering recruits, and then landed on the northeast coast of England. In September, Harald sailed up the Humber and defeated the armies of the Edwin, Earl of Mercia and Morcar, Earl of Northumbria, at Gate Fulford near York. He then made camp at Stamford Bridge, preparing his army to penetrate England deeper to the south.
Harold Godwinson would have none of this in his land. When he heard of the action at Gate Fulford, he headed up the road from London to York, gathering local armies as he went, and arrived just five days after Edwin and Morcar had been defeated. That same day, Harold marched out the 10 miles to Stamford Bridge to confront the Norse invaders. On September 25, the English and the Norse armies met, and so began the last ever Scandinavian offensive against the English. The Norsemen, fighting without their cumbersome armor, initially held their ground against the English. However, the King of England soon employed a common tactic by feigning a retreat, which Hardrada’s men easily fell for. At this turn of the tide, Harald Hardrada was killed, supposedly by an arrow to the throat, and Harold Godwinson offered his brother Tostig peace, along with quarter for all surviving Norsemen. However, the Norwegian army declared they would rather die than accept quarter from Englishmen, and the battle raged on. Reinforcements that had been left on the Norse ships actually arrived, but, tired from the march to the battle, they shucked their armor and soon paid for that mistake with their lives. They, along with most of the rest of the Norse army and Tostig, were destroyed. Godwinson spared the life of Olaf, Hardrada’s son, and allowed him and the few Norwegian survivors to return home alive. This marked one of the most decisive victories in English history. However, the joy at success was short lived – immediately after the Battle of Stamford Bridge, the King of England was informed that William, Duke of Normany, had landed at Pevensey on the southern coast. A second invasion had begun.
Throughout the summer of 1066, around the time that Harald Hardrada was preparing his expedition, William of Normandy built up an army around St. Valery on the mouth of the Somme. However, although his army was ready to go, the winds on the water were unfavorable and wouldn’t allow the force to set sail. Calling in the greatest force he knew, William had the bones of St. Edmund brought from the church at St. Valery and carried across the beach in prayer for seaworthy winds. Sure enough, the next day, a strong wind grew up, and William set sail for the island nation he was determined to take possession of. On 20 September, William landed at Pevensey with his invasion force. He was completely unopposed – the local army had been called out four times already that year, and thinking a false alarm, it didn’t bother to greet the Normans. Legend has it that William fell flat on his face when he came off his ship – turning this goof around, William said, “See, I have taken England with both my hands!”
William spent the next 2 weeks organizing his army, raiding the lands of Sussex for supplies, and building up a fortification to protect his fleet and army. Harold, learning of this, marched from York to London in seven days with what remained of his army. The local nobles in Kent and Wessex joined with their armies and retainers, and Harold stayed in London for another five days, gathering all the forces he could. Once he built up his army, Harold Godwinson marched toward Pevensey to defend the island nation he called his own.
Harold made camp on the evening of October 13 on Senlac Hill, with the great forest of Anderida at his back, on a line between Pevensey and London. The next morning, October 14, Harold formed his shield wall, a defensive line made up of his best troops, armed with swords, spears, and the devastating Danish axes. Behind this wall were the less trained troops, local levies called out along the way to London, armed with whatever weapons they could make or find. Regardless of their level of training or armament, all the troops were exhausted from the marathon march to meet William, and none were in great shape to fend off an invasion.
That same morning, William set out from Pevensey with an army comparable in size to Harold’s, made up of Breton, Norman, and Flemish nobles and their vassals, along with freebooters from as far away as Italy. The nobles had been promised English lands and titles upon victory, and the common troops were to be given cash and the “spoils of war”. Upon arriving at the English line, William arrayed his forces in the common medieval formation of three groups, or “battles”, facing the defenders. The Breton battle took the left, the Norman group the center, and the Flemish were on the right. So stood the opposing lines of armies prepared to decide the fate of England.
According to legend, William’s knight and minstrel Ivo Taillefer begged permission to charge out first against the English, and his request was honored. Taillefer rode out on his horse before the English lines, throwing his weapons in the air and catching them while singing an early version of the epic The Song of Roland. There are two versions of what then became of the Duke’s minstrel. One says that an English soldier rode out to challenge Taillefer, who killed the Englishmen and took his head as a trophy and proof that God favored the Norman invaders. The other version says that Taillefer charged the English ranks and was, of course, killed. Either way, upon this, the battle began.
William’s archers had little effect on the English lines – the shield wall prevented Norman arrows from doing much damage. As Norman archery tactics relied a great deal on launching arrows already fired at them by their enemies, and the English weren’t using archers, dwindling ammunition supplies soon caused the Normans to cut back their hail of arrows. William’s cavalry then charged the English, learning firsthand just how resilient Harold’s shield wall was.
Again and again, the Duke of Normandy’s forces charged against the English shield wall, and they were repeatedly turned away, unable to force their way through. However, the Bretons in the left battle soon saw that they could successfully employ a feigned retreat – the same tactic that Harold had used to defeat the Norsemen at Stamford Bridge. The Bretons then staged a retreat, and William’s Norman battle charged the English soldiers who had pursued the Bretons away from the safety of the shield wall. This proved to be Harold’s downfall. This feint was used over and over, slowly wearing down the English until little more than Harold’s personal bodyguard and some local levy troops remained.
William then ordered his archers to shoot high into the air, and traditionally, Harold, King of England, was killed by an arrow in the right eye. There are numerous versions of Godwinson’s death, but they all lead to the same point – once the King was dead, his troops were drained of their fighting spirit, and soon started being slaughtered by the Normans. Many of them fled into the forest at their backs, desperate to escape the battle.
William was victorious, but the bloodshed was not over for the day. His cavalry pursued the English army over Senlac Hill, only to fall into the deep ditch on the other side. Here, the frustrated English that remained in the forest cut the incapacitated Normans to pieces, saving what dignity they could and fighting to the last.
Learning of his death, Harold Godwinson’s mother offered his weight in gold to William for the chance to bury Harold in holy ground. William decided it was better to bury Harold on the Saxon shore, laid to rest in the ground he gave his life to defend. Later, Harold’s remains were transferred to Waltham Abbey, a church which he himself had founded.
So began the next era on the island nation William took by storm. The Saxon king was dead, and a Norman would soon take his place, thus setting into motion a change of life for the people living in William’s new country. Next week, we will wrap up our series with an examination of the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings – how easy was the transition? And what really changed throughout the land? If you’d like to look back over the battle, check out my blog at britishhistory101.com for a transcript of this and every other episode. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. Our music tonight is Geminiani’s “Sonata V in A Minor: Part 3, Allegro" performed by the Brook Street Band and available on Magnatune.com. Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit magnatune.com for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. Until we talk again, my best to you all, and thanks for listening. If you liked what you heard in this episode, please subscribe to British History 101 and catch each episode fresh every week. Again, thanks for listening, and have a great night. I’ll look forward to learning with you next week.

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Good evening, this is Michael Anthony and you’re listening to British History 101. This episode begins our three part series on the Battle of Hastings, fought between the Saxon king of England and Norman invaders in 1066. I thought it would be appropriate to set the background of the conflict up before the battle proper, so this evening’s episode will consist of profiles of who I consider to be the four main players involved: Edward the Confessor, Harold Godwinson, Harald Hardrada, and William of Normandy. These were the figures who played out the real-life drama that is now commonly known as the Norman Conquest, and the last three were men bent on attaining and keeping the English crown. Please forgive my pronunciation of names and places should I get them wrong – I’m used to reading this material, where pronunciation doesn’t matter, rather than speaking it out loud.
We begin our profiles with that of Edward the Confessor, King of England from 1042 until 1066. Edward was the third such named king and the last ruler of the House of Wessex. His father was Ethelred II, and significantly, his mother was Emma of Normandy. This is an important fact because, in 1013, Emma took her two sons Edward and Alfred to Normandy, fleeing the Danish invaders of England. There the boys remained for 25 years – while they were most impressionable, we must understand. In 1036, Alfred and Edward returned to England, intent on deposing their stepbrother Harold Harefoot. However, their attempt failed, and only Edward escaped back to Normandy with his life – Alfred was blinded and then killed. Edward was, however, able to return six years later by invitation of the new King of England – Edward’s half brother Harthacanute. In fact, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells us that Edward was sworn in as king alongside Harthacanute himself. Edward was a hit with the people, and when Harthacanute died in 1042, “before Harthacanute was buried, all the people chose Edward as king in London,” claims the Chronicle. As Harthacanute had no children, his half-brother ascended the throne, becoming Edward III.
During his reign, Edward showed the most sympathy and favoritism to the Norman leaders within the country – understandable, when we recall his 25 years spent in Normandy. However, there was a large opposition movement to this favoritism, and none was more unhappy about it than Godwin, Earl of Wessex – Edward’s father in law, after his daughter Edith married Edward in 1045, and arguably the second most powerful man in England. Their dispute reached its high point when Edward rejected Godwin’s candidate for Archbishop of Canterbury, instead appointing the Norman bishop of London to the post. The disagreement turned from argument to a much more hostile situation when Godwin refused to punish townspeople rioting against Eustace, one of the king’s kinsman, in Dover. As a result, Godwin and his family were exiled in September of 1051. Edith, Godwin’s daughter and the Queen consort, was sent away to a nunnery in Wherwell. Godwin returned in 1052, but this time with a small army of his own. With this new backing, Godwin forced Edward to return his titles and lands to him, and also send away his Norman advisors. The reinstated Earl of Wessex died the next year, and his son Harold inherited his power and position, which he wielded as the new second most powerful man in England until he claimed the throne upon Edward’s death as his brother-in-law in 1066.
This brings us to the next man in our story. Harold Godwinson, Second Earl of Wessex, is also known as King Harold II. He was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England, reigning for less than a year from 5 January to 14 October 1066. His father was, of course Godwin, the First Earl of Wessex, and his mother was Gytha Thorkelsdottir. He had a brother named Tostig (later his enemy) and a sister named Edith who we know married King Edward III. Because of his sister’s marriage to the king, Harold became the Earl of East Anglia in 1045. Harold followed his father into exile in 1051, returning a year later, and then assumed his father’s titles in 1053 after Godwin died. Five years later, he took the title Earl of Hereford, and followed his father’s footsteps by becoming the leader of the opposition to growing Norman influence in England. One of the most significant events in Harold’s life happened 2 years prior to the Battle of Hastings. In 1064, Harold was shipwrecked at Ponthieu, captured, and turned over to the Duke of Normandy, William. William let Harold go only after he pledged his support to William’s claim to the English throne upon Edward’s death – the Duke of Normandy insisted Edward (who was childless) had promised him the crown. The Normans would later say that Harold’s ascension to the throne made him guilty of perjury to his oath; supporters of Harold would claim that the oath was made under duress. Either way, when Edward died in January of 1066, Harold said that Edward had promised him the crowd on his deathbed, saying, “I commend my wife and all my kingdom to your care.” As the only eyewitness was Harold’s sister, the validity of this claim is dubious; nonetheless, Harold was crowned King of England the following day. He held the throne until that fateful October day less than a year later.
The Norseman who claimed the English throne was Harald Hardrada, whose surname roughly translates to “stern council” or “hard ruler”. Harald was the youngest of King Olaf II of Norway’s half brothers. When Harald was 15 in the year 1030, Olaf was killed defending his crown against Canute the Great at the Battle of Stiklestead. Harald participated in the battle, but managed to escape with his life. With Olaf dead, Canute became king, and Harald went into exile. During the 15 years he spent away from his homeland, Harald served military time in the land of the Rus and the Byzantine Empire, gathering a small army of men and making a large fortune along the way as a result of his victories. When he finally did return to Norway in 1045, the reigning king Magnus I, one of Olaf’s sons and Harald’s nephew who had taken over the throne in 1035, agreed to joint rule over the country – the force backing Harald was far too much for Magnus to challenge. Coincidentally, Magnus died about a year later, under less than perfectly explained circumstances. When Harold Godwinson ascended to the throne of England, Hardrada invoked an agreement supposedly made between Magnus and Harthacanute of England in 1038, when Harthacanute was king. The agreement stated that should either monarch died without heir, the survivor would inherit his kingdom, making that survivor King of England and Norway. Upon Harthacanute’s death, we know his half-brother Edward took the English crown, but neither Magnus nor Harald Hardrada attempted to depose him. Only when Harold Godwinson took the crown did Hardrada decide to claim what he believed to be rightfully his and invade England.
The last man we will examine is William of Normandy, who also carries the names William the Conqueror, William the Bastard, and William I of England. He was born illegitimately in Normandy to Robert the Magnificent and a woman named Herleva in 1027 or 1028. When he was only 7 years old, he succeeded the Duchy of Normandy, and at only 15 he was knighted by King Henry I of France. By the age of 19, he was successfully dealing with rebels and invaders of Normandy, and in 1047 he defeated the rebel Norman barons at Caen with the help of King Henry. By all this, we can see that William was a Norman powerhouse, and he fully intended to exert his influence in 1066 when Edward died. William claimed that Edward had promised him the throne on a visit in 1052, and that Harold had sworn his support on saint’s bones when he was shipwrecked in 1064. With this evidence backing him, William obtained the support of Pope Alexander II, assembled a force of 600 ships and 7,000 men, and set sail across the English Channel, determined to take the crown he thought belonged to him.
With that, we must end this episode of British History 101, and think about these men in preparation for part 2 of our Hastings series, when we cover the Battle itself. I know that the family connections, titles, and dates associated with this event can all be a bit confusing, as it was for me when I first learned this in school, so I’d encourage you to check out my blog at britishhistory101.com for a transcript of this and every other episode. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. Our music tonight is "Scortese: Autumn – The Marvel" by "Da Camera," available on Magnatune.com. Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit magnatune.com for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. Until next time, my best to you all, and thanks for listening. If you liked what you heard in this episode, please subscribe to British History 101 and catch each episode fresh every week. Again, thanks for listening, and have a great night.

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The Pilot

Good evening, this is Michael Anthony and you're listening to British History 101. This is the podcast's first episode, so I'd like it to be an explanatory prelude to what the future may bring. My vision for this podcast is to provide a basic and intermediate level of British history – something the novice scholar and Anglophile can both enjoy simultaneously. I'd like to do profiles on British monarchs, overviews of significant battles and political events, and some trivia on British culture and society every now and then. My most pressing concern is the audience – what do you want to hear? What types of things are you interested in within the realm of the British Isles? I'd like to include a weekly question and answer, once this podcast builds a listener base, so start thinking about things you'd like to know but have never had a chance to find out. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. Also, check out my blog at http://www.britishhistory101.com for a transcript of each show. Until next time, when we begin our three part series on the Battle of Hastings, my best to you all, and thanks for listening. Have a good night.

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